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The "101" Department: Let's See Some ID

Accurate identification in shelters remains a crucial, overlooked task

Accurate identification in shelters remains a crucial, overlooked task

You might think you could never forget these faces, but formal methods of identifying and tracking animals can help shelters avoid mistakes. KORY JOHNSON/KORY JOHNSON PHOTOGRAPHY
When it comes to identifying incoming animals and tracking them within shelters, there are plenty of examples of what not to do.

Take a Midwestern shelter evaluated a few years ago by a team from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Using a method of identification that stunned the evaluators, the shelter took numbered paper tags and glued them to dogs’ backs—using toxic glue normally reserved for cattle at auction. Dogs—especially puppies—routinely chewed off each other’s tags, creating a real possibility of poisoning. Carolyn Machowski, manager for The HSUS’s Shelter Services department, recalls that when an owner reclaimed a dog, shelter staff would rip off the tag like a Band-Aid, leaving the dog with a big patch of itchy, glued-together fur to drive him crazy.

“We were astounded by that method of identification. That is pretty unusual,” Machowski concedes. The shelter’s defense was that the tags didn’t come off easily—which was true, Machowski adds, but staff members apparently failed to see the method’s dangers.

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